Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Former Unicorn on Uintah's Unpaid Lunches

Did you know that elementary schools have mascots?  I don't know why, but they do.  Usually, they either have some alliterative name (i.e. the Crestview Cougar) or are something mystical (I have no idea if West Kearns' Royal Lion is more mystical than a regular lion, but it's going here).  Students of Salt Lake City's Uintah Elementary, located at the corner of 1500 East and 1300 South, are known as the Unicorns.

How do I know this?  Well, from Kindergarten through the sixth grade, I was a Unicorn.  I have fond memories of my time at Uintah.   As soon as I read the article from the Tribune about kids having their lunches stolen from them, it transported me back to second grade, when my Garfield lunch box was stolen.  As I read the account of kids having their lunch taken, I pictured it happening.

Well, in my mind, it happened in the Uintah Elementary Cafeteria of my day, located somewhere near where Uintah's southern soccer goal is now.  I've never been in the "new" school they bult 2 decades ago, but I imagine the cafeteria being the same.

The story wasn't about a bully stealing some kid's lunch, it was about a bully stealing 40 kids' lunches.

In case you or or kids haven't been in a school for a few years, I'll tell you how the system works:  You put money into an account for your kid, the kid gets a PIN number, and at some point when he's getting school lunch, he enters the PIN number on a pad like you do when you use your debit card.  This system is great, because none of the kids knows who is paying full price and who gets reduced or free lunch.

I remember making fun of the kids in Jr High that had the red or blue lunch tickets because their families were poor.  I feel bad about that.  It's nice to know that kids today don't have that stigma reigning over their heads.

Unless, of course, they run out of money in their accounts.  Then, if it's a system like they have at Uintah where kids pick up their lunch and then enter their number, if you are out of funds, they take the lunch and throw it in the trash.

The school district claims that they give notice to families that the funds are low or empty.  I know that in some cases, those notices don't get to the parents.  Sending messages home with kids isn't exactly Western Union.

However, if you have 40 kids (nearly one-and-a-half classes worth) that have accounts below $0, maybe you should look at how the communication is sent to the parents.

For instance, whenever there was something my parents really needed to see, they had to sign it.  This let the school know that the message got there.

Also, if a school has a higher-than-average rate of students running out of money, maybe you should have the payment pad at the front of the line.  It's much less traumatizing.

The last thing you should be doing is taking food directly out of kids' hands.  Ya big bullies.


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